Annika Saraf is the CEO & Founder of luxury handbag brand Akinna Milano. In this article she talks about her journey from a foreign student in Milan to an entrepreneur.

Where and what did you study in Milano?

I moved to Milano in 2017 to study design at one of world’s top fashion schools - Istituto Marangoni, where I had the opportunity to undertake two degrees: Luxury Accessories Design Intensive; Master’s degree in Luxury Accessories Design and Management.


Coming from an absolutely unrelated background, having studied Bachelors in Economics in India and then dropping out of London School of Economics and Political Sciences’ masters programme to follow my passion for Fashion, I believe the intensive courses at Marangoni provided me the framework to acquire in-depth theoretical knowledge of the subjects and regular practical trainings to put that knowledge to test.

Why did you choose Milano for your degree?

The primary reason behind choosing Milano is the fact that it is one of the main art cities across the globe and home to the world's best-known fashion designers.


There are ample opportunities to attend fashion events and learn directly from their experiences. Milano also offers outstanding networking and work opportunities for young fashion enthusiasts which really helps when you are just starting out in the industry.


Also, Italian craftsmanship is something that has been famous worldwide for centuries.

Therefore studying in Milan means being in the epicenter of art and fashion, where each day is a new lesson and learning opportunity both professionally and personally.

How did you come up with the project for your start up?

Thanks to the great exposure, I got during my masters degree and my internship at the Borbonese as a Luxury Handbag Designer, I was able to quickly excel in my craft and my work was showcased at Milano Fashion Week 2020.


Having been fortunate enough to receive such a recognition, I wanted to come up with something of my own so that I could have absolute creative freedom, while caring for the consumer. The idea was to empower them, in style. And to be able to create a more personal connection with them.


Therefore, a small idea back in the year 2021 took its shape and was launched in the year 2022 as Akinna Milano, with an ambition to break the ever changing trends, thereby taking a step towards authenticity while being closer to the consumers through a D2C approach.

Tell us more about your project?

Akinna Milano is a modern-day brand that started with the thought of making designer bags that stand the test of time and trends. We spend countless hours perfecting our products leaving no details to chance because we believe good design and quality craftsmanship should be accessible to all.


The Akinna muse is authentic, tenacious, and confident. The women who inspire our designs are street-smart go-getters who value authenticity, think beyond fads, and won’t carry something unless it’s sophisticated in design. Akinna is for the discerning tastemakers of today.


Our highly-skilled team based in Italy delivers on both beauty and quality. Our contemporary ideas are, thus, accentuated with the expertise of the best artisanship in the world. As a result, our creations have aesthetic harmony, easy wearability, and durability, and they are always meticulously finished.

Did your university support you in starting your project? How?

Istituto Marangoni acted as a huge catalyst in the growth of Akinna Milano by providing a brilliant community of alumni, teachers, and other connections. Starting out in a new country and new domain is always tough and therefore the great alumni network has been a nice support system to seek advice


I also feel fortunate to serve as one of the youngest Mentors at Istituto Marangoni for the past 2 years, trying to share my everyday learning experiences with the student community.

What do you like about Milano?

The best thing about Milano in my opinion is the great combination of beautiful architecture and delicious food.


It is a big city with a relatively small city vibe which makes life quite peaceful in comparison to its counterparts such as Paris or London, while keeping almost the same level of social life.


However, I feel that Milano, somewhere, lacks diversity in terms of its populace. This, in terms, impacts the language that the city has to offer, especially when one decides to start their own venture.

Do you have any advice for people who want to come to Milano to study?

In my opinion Milano is a great place to study arts & design, engineering and business owing to the presence of top schools like Bocconi, PoliMi and Marangoni here.


The daily expenses are not as high as other big cities and you always have access to great coffee at a decent price! Having said that, I would
recommend all students to complete at least a beginner level course of Italian before moving here since it will help in experiencing everyday life better and also help in the job market later.

What would you suggest to someone who wants to launch a startup in Milano?

It will not be wrong to say that Milano is the ultimate hub for the fashion industry. This city has quite a reputation in the international business world, which makes it an important economic center in Europe.


In recent years, the startup culture has really caught speed in Milano with great funding being poured in. At the same time, it is also important to take in consideration that the laws and regulations in Italy in general are quite stringent, which may act as a barrier for someone new to enter the start-up market.


Therefore, I am of the opinion that it is imperative to gain a first person’s account around it to be able to sail better in the longer run.